Fun with multiple editions of Migne’s Patrologia Latina

Engraved portrait of J.-P. Migne
J.-P. Migne [PD-1923]
The past couple days, I’ve come across a pair of references in Cranfield’s and Moo’s Romans commentaries to comments by Ambrosiaster about the origin of the Christian community in Rome, and I’ve been curious to give this reference a look. Both authors cite the reference as found in J.-P. Migne’s Patrologia latina, vol. 17, col. 46 (Cranfield, xiii, 17n2; Moo, 4n7).

My go-to index for online PDFs from Migne’s Greek or Latin patrologies is Documenta Catholica Omnia. The index for PL, vol. 17, indicates that cols. 45-184A are Ambrosiaster’s commentary on Romans. Clicking through to the archived PDF, however, I noticed the first column in the document was col. 47. The Latin quotation as excerpted by Cranfield occurs in col. 48 (not 46, per Cranfield’s and Moo’s citations).

Where to find it?

Not wanting to miss anything (and also somewhat intrigued by the two different sets of column ranges indicated by Documenta Catholica Omnia), I kept hunting and recalled that Patristica.net also has Migne’s patrologies indexed. For PL, vol. 17, Patristica.net has three links listed where the text is available.

The link to Internet Archive refers to a text dated 1879 and apparently scanned previously in coordination with Google. The column arrangement for this file matches the one provided by Documenta Catholica Omnia.

Patristica.net, however, also provides two links to Google Books (1, 2). These texts are dated 1845 and have a different column arrangement that corresponds to the one implied by the references in Cranfield and Moo. (Interestingly too, the 1845 text refers to 13 Pauline epistles, the 1879 text only to 12.) So, mystery solved: Cranfield and Moo apparently used the 1845 rather than the 1879 printing of PL, vol. 17, to make these references.

How to cite it?

As a side-note (that doesn’t, of course, apply to Cranfield’s or Moo’s texts), the SBL Handbook of Style provides a specific citation format for Migne’s patrologies (§6.4.6). Footnoting Ambrosiaster per the handbook then should result in something like (cf. the handbook’s example and the PDF of the cited volume of Gregory’s works):

  1. Ambrosiaster, In epistolam ad Romanos 3 (PL 17:[46 / 48]a).

PL seems to be treated as a static text, not needing a publication date. But, for situations like the one noted here, perhaps an amendment like

  1. Ambrosiaster, In epistolam ad Romanos 3 (PL 17 [1845]:46a).

or

  1. Ambrosiaster, In epistolam ad Romanos 3 (PL 17 [1879]:48a).

might be helpful. Or, is there a definite way of handling this situation already implied in the SBL Handbook that I’m just overlooking?

Update: the official word

SBL Press has subsequently given an official recommendation about handling the situation described above.

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